Zamorna, with his famously adamant nerves — scourge of the Ashantees, the Arabs, and the French — hero of the War of Encroachment — fled.
He rushed down a steep flight of steps, through a kitchen, and out a small house door, only to find himself in a graveyard. Dusk was falling, and the frozen ground was half-covered in meager drifts of snow, which seemed to glow in the last low gleams of a stormy twilight. Slabs of tombstones paved the ground, and Zamorna hurried on, shivering as he found that he was dressed only in a rough peasant shirt and wool trousers.
Soon he saw the lights of a rustic village, and a most welcome sight — the sign of the Black Bull Inn.
From an upstairs window, the three young women watched him run away.
“Should we tell Father?” asked the youngest.
“No,” said the eldest. “Let us spare him the knowledge of this strange fit, if we can. He is still in a black mood about the collapse of the Royal Academy scheme.”
Then they stood silently, looking out at the dreary bare trees, each secretly fearing that their beloved brother might be going mad.
A similar fear was reflected in the whispered conversation between Una and Lucien. Branwell heard their voices, low and unintelligible, as he sat stunned on the floor of the boudoir.
The imbecile expression on his face did not reflect his true intelligence. Indeed he had a keen mind, although much folded in upon itself. Its chief power was not in observation, but in creation. His somewhat wild and sanguine temperament led his thoughts sometimes into an overheated and confused state, resembling a fit, although he did not lose consciousness, but seemed to be having visions which he could not later on recall.
Rising, he pushed open the boudoir door, unnoticed. He could see Lady de Trois and General de Ruprembré, their heads bent together, in an alcove of the elegantly furnished reception room. As Branwell listened to the hushed voices and took in the luxury of the room before him, a strange conviction dawned on him. He knew this house, this beautiful woman, this dashing young man — for he had created them!
Dimly he began to realize that he was in the pied-a-terre of Una de Trois, mistress of the Duke of Zamorna, in Glass Town. That very morning, as he sat at the deal desk in his cold upstairs room, hoping to distract his brain from the searing flagellation of memories of his recent humiliation at the Royal Academy, he had picked up his pen and begun a new tale concerning these very people.
“Lady de Trois,” he had written in a tiny print, designed to be too small for his father’s weak eyes to read, “had a stately, wintry beauty, with eyes the glowing blue of ice caves, and hands like milk that had frozen over in the pan…” He had been dissatisfied with that last simile, and as he gazed at her hands now, he knew that he had to change it — they were cool, not cold, and soft, like fine linen.
She gestured with them as she stood standing in a window recess, consulting sotto voce with Lucien.
Glass Town! Branwell thought. And a pleading voice inside his head said, Please, let this be real! Please let me stay here!
Glass Town! His heart swelled with an ecstatic excitement. In a fear that he might at any moment awake, he rushed to an open window. Glass Town! The glorious capital of the African federation, the jewel of the Western coast, the most beautiful metropolis ever to be conceived of in the world, or in the fervid minds of a brother and sister, two of a family of young prodigies, all destined for greatness!
A rosy summer sunset was glazing the domes and spires of Glass Town with warm, benignant hues, til they sparkled like frosted cakes and rock candy. From the high window, Branwell could see the great cathedral, with the last rays of the sun coruscating from its stained glass windows. He could see the graceful harbor, its water lapping pink and lapis, full of the ships of every nation. And he could see Wellesley House, the imposing palace of the Duke of Zamorna … but his acute senses had yet to perceive that he, himself, had become the Duke.
Una saw him standing, and purred, “My dear, in case you are unwell, Lucien has offered to escort me to Baron von Fopl’s masquerade ball.”